In a Nutshell
All the hottest stories in young adult fiction today are part of either trilogies (The Hunger Games, the Delirium trilogy) or sprawling sagas (Harry Potter, Twilight, and, honestly, we're waiting for the inevitable Candy Crush Saga movie and book tie-in). Why read one book when you can read three, four, seven, or more? Every year, a new stack of giant books seems to sweep in and topple the previous year's reigning champion.
2014 is the year of the Divergent trilogy (sorry, Katniss). The first book, Divergent, ended with a cliffhanger in 2011, leaving fans waiting until 2012 for the sequel, Insurgent, which picks up literally minutes after the first book ends.
Having discovered and put a stop to a conspiracy that would change her city forever, Beatrice "Tris" Prior finds herself and her friends on the run. The conspiracy turns out to run deeper than she imagined (conspiracies are like zits or icebergs in that way: you only see the surface), and she finds herself having to choose a side that will determine her fate and the fate of her city.
The second volume of any trilogy either succeeds spectacularly (The Empire Strikes Back) or fails miserably (The Matrix Reloaded). Critics and readers put Insurgent in the first camp, calling it "action-packed" and full of "unrelenting suspense." Goodreads members even voted Insurgent their Young Adult Fantasy of 2012 and named Veronica Roth Goodreads Author of the Year.
So, yeah, Insurgent didn't lose any steam from its predecessor. In your face, Neo.
Insurgent isn't just a path from book 1 to book 3. All the characters you remember from Divergent change (or at least try to grow) during this installment. Tris tries to cope with her guilt, and her fears, and her fears of guilt. Tobias (or Four, or whatever his name is) grapples with his own identity in the way that only someone with a silly nickname can. And, well, some of the characters change from living to dead. Just a fair warning: Veronica Roth pulls some big punches.
You don't want to just jump into Insurgent cold. Read Divergent, but be ready: once the Divergent train leaves the station, there's no stopping it.
Why Should I Care?
We've said it once, and we'll say it before: this series isn't just Another Teen Dystopia. (Where's that parody movie?) Sure, we have warring factions based on its members' virtues (or vices) à la Hogwarts. We have kids armed to the teeth, like the heroes and anti-heroes of The Hunger Games. And we have young adults trying to understand what it means to love in a world that's going to the dogs (see, well, any young adult book).
But Insurgent takes things a bit deeper than Divergent did. Divergent was all about choice. You can pick your friends, you can pick your nose, but you can't pick your friend's nose. That type of thing. Insurgent is about the whys behind the choices. It explores the psychology of choice in a way that's a lot more fun than reading an article by Malcolm Gladwell.
Insurgent feels like a great social experiment at times. If you boil people down to just a few basic traits – selflessness, bravery, truth – how will they choose their friends and their lovers? What kind of society will they build? And how will they react when things really hit the fan? Reading Insurgent is like peering through a microscope at human behavior… that of others, and that of yourself.